It’s scary, isn’t it?─having to tell a truth to someone who may not want to hear it. Whether you have to tell a friend they’ve been betrayed, inform a client that their ideas suck, or write a blog post to burst your reader’s bubble, hard truths can feel almost as painful to deliver as they are to receive simply because the thought of hurting someone is scary. You don’t want that. And the scariest part is you don’t know how they’ll react─they might think you’re a jerk and cut all ties with you. You don’t want that either. So, sometimes you obfuscate the truth to spare them the pain of hearing it. Sometimes you even keep it to yourself or tell a white lie.
Well, I have to tell you something, and you may not want to hear it. But if you struggle with the art of being frank, you need to hear this. It will make you a better person, a better communicator, and a better blogger. So, here it is … You’re a coward. If you can’t be brutally honest with people, especially when you know it’s in their best interest, you’re a coward. Here’s why.
You Can’t Be A Coward When It Comes To Hard Truths
You’re not doing anyone a favor by withholding the truth from them, even if it’s difficult for them to hear. The only person you’re protecting is yourself, as you’re probably afraid of the consequences you’ll suffer from. But it’s not about you. Being honest is about making sure your audience has the information they need to make good decisions. That includes information they may not like.
You may convince yourself it’s “nicer” to hide or obfuscate things that are difficult for them to hear, but it’s not. Ignorance doesn’t lead to bliss, it leads to bad decision-making, and there’s nothing “nice” about that. And, as a blogger trying to help your readers, honesty is that much more important because readers rely on your expertise and candor. They rely on you to set them straight when they’re headed the wrong way. They rely on you to guide them in the right direction. You may fear you’ll lose readers when you tell them a hard truth, but withholding it is far riskier. It’s not why you started your blog, and it will hurt your credibility in the long run.
When you’re honest at all times, whether in your writing or in your personal life, people will know what to expect from you. And when they need the truth, you’re the one they will come to. So, yes, you may lose some readers along the way, but you’ll gain the trust and respect of so many more.
The Biggest Mistake People Make When Being Brutally Honest
Brutal honesty is not about being cruel, rude, shocking, or harsh. That’s not brutal honesty─it’s just brutal. So if that’s what you’re going for, you’re doing it wrong. Maybe that seems obvious to you, but many people mistake brutal honesty for honest brutality. You’ve probably experienced more than your share. So if it’s that obvious, why do so many people make this mistake? Because it’s not obvious. In fact, it’s almost counterintuitive. Many people think that the point of brutal honesty is to shock someone into hearing from you. They think that the point is to be so harsh that the other person can’t help but hear the truth.
But that’s not really how it works. Treating people harshly will only make them less receptive to what you have to say, not more. The point of brutal honesty is to be completely honest and let the truth speak for itself. It’s about not holding anything back—not telling white lies to make a person feel better or withholding information they might find hurtful. Those are things we do on a regular basis, and the point of brutal honesty is to stop doing that.
You see, the emphasis in brutal honesty should be on the honesty, not on the brutality. It is the truth that you need to deliver, and not your delivery itself, that needs to be brutally unrestrained. Of course, the problem is that being brutally honest isn’t just hard to do—it’s hard to do well. That’s because it’s not just about what you say; it’s also about why, when, and how.
The Three Common Scenarios That Brutal Honesty Requires
Honesty is always a good policy, but not every situation calls for brutal honesty. So, how do you know when it’s time to hold nothing back? At the end of the day, it’s about assessing the situation, being clear about your purpose, and using your judgment. But, for more guidance, here are three common scenarios that often call for being brutally honest:
Number 1: When They Want Your Help In Deluding Themselves
Whenever someone comes to you to confirm their delusions, you need to do the exact opposite. For example, many bloggers might love to hear that all they need to do to make money is to write posts and slap ads on them. They might want to hear that riches are right around the corner, even if they only just got started. But what they need to hear is that there’s no such thing as easy success, that it takes time, and that they must adjust their expectations. Trying to sugar-coat this reality won’t help them.
Number 2: When They’re Making A Dreadful Mistake
You wouldn’t let a friend walk blindly into traffic without reaching out a hand to pull them back. Hell, you wouldn’t even be so inconsiderate to a stranger. So why would you let them make a harmful decision without trying to save them from it? Sure, walking into traffic is likely to cause them serious harm—but so is making a decision that could ruin their career, blow their life savings, or land them in jail. If they’re about to make a big mistake—or even if they’ve already made the mistake—your willingness to be brutally honest with them might just be the thing that saves them from future pain.
Number 3: When Subtlety Has Failed
How do you know when being brutally honest is called for? When nothing else has worked. By all means, try a subtler, gentler approach first—but when nothing seems to get through to them, it’s time to take off the kid gloves and tell them what they need to hear, without holding back.
These aren’t the only circumstances which call for brutal honesty, but they are frequent ones, and they have two basic principles in common: the hearer badly needs to be told the truth, and yet it is very difficult for them to discover or receive it. And that’s where you come in.
Have The Courage To Tell The Unvarnished Truth And You’ll Win Peoples’ Respect
Telling someone a hard truth can be scary, especially because you don’t know how people will react. And I won’t lie, some people won’t like it. Even if you take all the right steps, you may still offend them, and you may still lose them. But you’ll also gain the trust of others who recognize the value of someone they can trust to be honest—the type of people who may never have paid attention to you while you were busy telling everyone what they wanted to hear. And, as you develop a reputation as a person who tells it straight, you will gain people’s respect. You will gain credibility and authority. People will seek out your advice, value your perspective, and appreciate your honesty. And, you will help people—far more than when you were telling them whatever they wanted to hear. And isn’t that the point?